Here's my latest column, on the joy of returning again and again to hunt the same ground. I know I've developed a habit of returning to this "return" theme annually, after my most recent sojourn to the Chukar Grounds, but I kind of like that place.
The ramped up wolf hunting and trapping on Yellowstone National Park's northern border in Montana is now threatening tourism businesses in the state. In 2021, the state legislature approved laws that were signed by Gov. Greg Gianforte. The laws dramatically loosened the rules governing the killing of wolves in Montana.
About 20 Yellowstone wolves have been killed so far, including seven that were part of the Phantom Lake Pack, which is now considered eliminated. The result has been increasing national, and international attention on Montana's loosened regs, and increasing calls for the Feds to reinstate endangered species protection for wolves in the Northern Rockies.
A helpful rundown of hunting reg changes the FWP Commission will consider at its Feb. 4 meeting by reporter Laura Lindquist of the Missoula Current. The process seems rushed and politically driven, undermining the state's reputation for science-based wildlife management. The retirement of experienced biologists has contributed to this slapdash effort.
My column on the laws cropping up across the West banning trial cams on public lands during hunting season.
A trespass case in Wyoming is training attention on corner crossings and how landowners use them to keep the public off public lands. My take on the injustice of blocking access at corner crossings.
I don't know what to expect from the coming year. COVID-19 has been like a vampire. Just when we think we've put it past us, a new variant emerges, dashing hopes life will settle back into pre-pandemic rhythms anytime soon (probably never).
So our new normal continues, at least at the start of 2022. Let's hope some things change, soon. Take precautions like masking. Get vaccinated. Don't follow medical advice from random sources on the internet. Sort out safe ways to play. There are plenty, and the outdoors is always a good place to start.
Enough about that. To start the year, let me get caught up on columns from December I haven't yet posted. Break's over.
New Year's resolutions for 2022. I'm not much of a resolution guy, but if I must ...
If You Could Only Have Just One The internet meme of forcing you to choose just one, as applied to upland birds.
Just in time for Christmas, I've finished the fifth and final installment of my "cookbooks for hunters and anglers series" with a look at "Salt Fat Acid Heat," by Samin Nosrat. There's no particular hunter/angler emphasis in this book, but Nosrat breaks down the four main elements of cooking in an easy, understandable way. If you're learning to cook, or even if you consider yourself an old hand in the kitchen, you'll learn a ton reading "Salt."
My favorite tidbit of "Salt" inspired insight: socarrat is the word for the crisp, brown rice crust that forms on the bottom of a pan of properly prepared paella. Though I haven't made paella in decades, I'm quite familiar with socarrat. I make a version of tomato rice a couple of times a month when I'm cooking Mexican/Tex-Mex grub. By accident I learned to create a socarrat crust in my tomato rice, though that's not the way it's normally served, and until I read this book, I didn't know that's what it is called. I make my rice crusty every time now.
By the way, I called these columns reviews, but I don't mean review in a clinical, break it down, chapter-by-chapter sense. These are more impressions rather than thorough critiques. The books were fun to read, though you don't really read cookbooks cover to cover (at least I don't). I'll be thumbing through these titles for as long as I'm cooking, leaving fatty thumbprints on all my favorite recipes.
Hank Shaw's "Hook, Line, and Supper," is the roadmap for anglers who want to convert fish and seafood into delicious meals. This is the perfect gift for an angler friend who loves to cook.
Missoula Currant reporter Laura Lundquist has some great reporting up regarding the FWP commission backing down on FWP Director Hank Worsech's dumb proposal to solve Montana's elk overpopulation problems by taking hunting opportunities away from Montana elk hunters. In a press release last week urging members to oppose the scheme, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers said the proposal would "privatize wildlife," and pit the "haves" and "have nots" against one another when it comes to elk hunting in Montana.
BHA's effort worked as FWP was bombarded with hunter opposition to the move.
And then there's this choice quote from Lundquist's report:
Apparently, someone told Worsech his job at the commission meeting was to act like an incompetent bureaucrat. Maybe he wasn't acting. Or maybe it's because he's new to the job and in over his head. In case he didn't know, Montanans have had a conversation going about elk management, since forever. All he did was redirect that conversation, briefly, to shooting down his dumb idea about creating the King's deer in Montana.
The competent bureaucrats at FWP, the biologists, should lead these management conversations, not political appointees.
If you want to solve the elk problem in districts where the population is over objective, you first need to solve the private land, hunter access problem. Transferring title of wildlife to wealthy landowners is just a giveaway. And unconstitutional.
Dogs, and great dog work, are a big part of why I enjoy upland hunting so much. Here's my column about another time the dogs saved the day.